Defra confirms crippling cuts for Environment Agency and WRAP

The full impact of the budget cuts at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were revealed today after the government published the budget allocations for the next four years for the department and its related bodies.

Defra was one of the hardest hit departments in Chancellor George Osborne’s October Comprehensive Spending Review, agreeing with the Treasury to deliver savings of £661m by the end of the spending review period in 20114-15.

The department had already announced it would cut 5.5 per cent from its 2010-11 budget in an attempt to save £162m and has now confirmed the full scope of the coming cuts.

As expected, the Waste Resources Action Program (WRAP), which provides advice to businesses on how to reduce waste and improve resource efficiency, and the Environment Agency, are to face deep budget cuts starting from April.

According to Defra figures, the total WRAP budget will fall 28 per cent – from £48.1m in 2010-11 to £34.7m in 2011-12. By the end of the budget period in 2014-15 the organisation’s annual budget will have dropped 37 per cent from today’s levels to £30.1m.

A spokeswoman for WRAP said that in reality the agency’s budget cut for next year would be closer to 25 per cent as it received a number of one-off grants from Defra this year that it did not expect to be replicated in 2011-12.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency’s non-flood related spending will fall six per cent next year – from £199.9m this year to £187.9m in 2011-12. It will continue to fall each year through to 2014-15, resulting in a 16 per cent cut by 2014-15 when the budget will stand at £167m.

Controversially, spending on flood management will also fall significantly, dropping 17 per cent next year – from £629m to £520.8m. By 2014-15 the annual budget will have fallen 23 per cent compared with 2010-11, dropping to £485.2m.

A government spokesman defended the flood spending cuts, noting that Defra will still spend £2.1bn on flood management over the next four years at an average of £540m a year – a cut of just eight per cent on the £590m spent on average each year over the last four years.

Defra said in a statement that the budget allocations reflect its “priorities to support and develop British farming and encourage sustainable food production; to help enhance the environment and biodiversity to improve quality of life; and to support a strong and sustainable green economy, which is resilient to climate change”.

However, green businesses and environmental groups remain furious at the scale and speed of the cuts, warning that numerous crucial services are likely to be impacted by the deep budget cuts.

Defra confirmed that overall its total budget allocations for arm’s length bodies will fall 29 per cent – from £3.11bn this year to £2.43bn in 2014-15.

A spokesman added that the department is expecting between 5,000 and 8,000 job losses as a result of the budget cuts.

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